Japanese Records Confirm Canada Was Shelled

Roundup: Talking About History

Michael Whitby and Bill Rawling, Ottawa, Official naval historians, Department of National Defence, in the Ottawa Citizen (April 11, 2004):

Any suggestion that Canada and the United States staged the attack on Estevan Point in June 1942 is unfounded and flies in the face of rigorous historical research.

Two Japanese submarines (I-25 and I-26) were sent to the Pacific coast of North America in June 1942 to reconnoitre the main United States base at Seattle and to give warning if American warships sailed against the attacks on Midway and the Aleutian islands. Japanese naval doctrine at the time decreed that its submarines leave a calling card by shelling shore facilities upon departing their patrol areas, presumably in an attempt to stir up the local populace.

After staying off the Strait of Juan de Fuca for two weeks, during which time they torpedoed two merchant ships (we assume conspiracy theorists would also have us believe that was done by the Americans), I-26 shelled Estevan Point, and a day later I-25 likewise bombarded an American facility in Oregon. Such actions were repeated throughout the Pacific war. The activities of I-25 and I-26 and the orders that set them in motion are verified by Japanese documents from the time.

The eyewitness testimony cited to support the conspiracy theory in the article is also flawed. Rather than coolly watching the attack, the lighthouse keeper ran down the stairs of the 125-foot structure, found his wife to warn her to take cover, and then ran all the way back up the stairs to douse the light. Presumably this took some time and effort, and impaired his ability to observe the relatively short attack.

As far as identifying warship types, trained military personnel consistently make errors, along the lines of aircraft attacking whales they take to be submarines. Also, despite the suggestion that Canadian forces did not immediately respond to the attack, in fact the naval commander on the Pacific coast learned of the attack within 30 minutes, broadcast a general alarm and dispatched air and naval forces to the scene.

Although the navy had most of the coast of Vancouver Island covered by routine patrols, warships could not reach the site until the next morning. However, a RCAF Stranraer patrol aircraft reached the site that night, but I-26 had already fled the scene.

As far as the belief that the attack propped up support for conscription, it should be noted that prime minister Mackenzie King was vehemently opposed to conscription throughout the war. In his world view it would have been preferable if Canada, and Estevan Point, had never been attacked.

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